March 28, 2014

Thank You Notes Vol. 2

Another Friday, another round of thank you notes and a continuing love for Jimmy Fallon.  

Thank you sunshine for briefly gracing us with your presence last Saturday afternoon so we could sit on the pier.  Please come back NOW and stay for a while.  I need to go outside and play.

Thank you Dunkin Donuts for being everything I wanted in a neighborhood coffee place. Your doors opened for me after I walked through the welcome balloons, your employees were excited that it was the first day, my latte was perfection and my donut was even better.  Now, please have a rule that I can only treat myself to coffee & a donut once a week or this is going to become trouble.  But really, I love you.

Thank you spring break for allowing my college roommate/bestie to come and spend a few days with me.  We are going to have a freaking blast this weekend and I can't wait.  Also, thank you for giving me an excuse for a 3 day weekend because who doesn't want one of those.

Thank you New York City for welcoming our visitors last weekend and giving us a little sign of springtime on Saturday.

Thank you Buzzfeed for this list of items to improve my Wineaholic lifestyle - also, I'm a tad bit embarrassed that I already have items 1-4 and I think I'm the only blogger that doesn't own a wine sippy cup (but i did just send 2 to one of my best friends for her birthday.)

Thank you heating pads for helping me get through yesterday and also being a magnet for my ornery Schnauzer who never likes to cuddle.  He sat on my lap for over an hour last night and it was wonderful.

Thank you brunch, wine, umbrellas and so much laughing for sponsoring this weekend with Emma the dilemma.  Here are all my favorite pictures of her in one place.  This song is dedicated to you.

Linking up with the Queen of Unicorns

March 26, 2014

I Still Need a Donut

Yep, I'm the girl that just wrote a post about my cleaner eating habits and now I'm back to talking about donuts.

You guys, I can't keep looking at Dunkin Donuts out my window.  It's killing me.  For those of you who don't know, there is a brand new DD opening up across the street from my apartment.  The light up menus went up 2 nights ago which means it's almost ready.  I will probably be their first customer and I will consider it an honor.

In other news, yesterday seemed to just be a stupid day for a lot of people.  I saw lots of tweets and Facebook updates about just being annoyed or frustrated.  I felt the same way after reading a few emails at the end of my work day that were just dumb and incredibly frustrating.  But, then two things happened that helped me pull myself together:

1.  I got an email from an old employee of mine who was leaving our company as of yesterday.  It was the sweetest note and it reminded me that I love the people I work with (most days.)  Having daily contact with someone means you have a big impact on their life, whether you realize it or not.  He thanked me for being a positive energy.  His note was just what I needed to turn my mood around.

2.  Erin from Two Thirds Hazel tweeted something about the news last night and how horrifying it was sometimes.  I will agree that it almost always makes me mad/sad/frustrated.  I realized that I had the perfect solution for her and I think it's something everyone should have bookmarked on their computer.  Click here now and get your daily dose of happiness.  Share that link with others and spread the love.

Right before I went to sleep, I checked Instagram (duh) and my friend, Caroline, had posted this and I felt like it was the best way to describe a crappy day.

Now go aim for something awesome.

Also, the giveaway from last week is over after today - there aren't too many entries, so there's a good chance you'll win - click here to enter.  Also, I'll be doing another giveaway in April, so if you're interested in being a part of it, check out the sponsor options because all sponsors will be included next month.

March 25, 2014

Cleaner Eating

My first resolution for 2014 was "clean" - and that refers to everything.  One of the biggest things I wanted to clean up was our eating habits.

About 2 years ago, we stopped eating meat.  It was part of my 30 before 30 list to go vegetarian for 30 days.  Turns out, I didn't miss meat at all and my body just felt better.  Over time, we worked fish back into our diets mostly because it made life a little easier at restaurants - we don't ever eat it at home.  You can read more about it here.

The biggest problem left with eating was processed foods.  There are a million studies in the world that tell you a million different things, but with common sense, I have figured out that if you don't know what the ingredients are - it's probably not your best option.  But saying you'll cut out processed foods is not as easy as it sounds.

read article about most unhealthy processed foods
We still eat processed food often, but we've definitely cut back on the amount of things entering our bodies that we don't understand.  We will continue to make little changes and keep improving.  Here are some tips I'll give you from what I've learned in our last three months:

1.  Research is your friend and sometimes your enemy.  I say enemy because sometimes you don't want to know.  We have watched almost every documentary on food that is available on Netflix and Forks Over Knives is still definitely our favorite.  Learn about farming and where your food is coming from.

2.  Try something new and change things up a little bit.  Try Meatless Mondays or take a week off from meat.  Check into the Whole 30 that Kym @ Travel Babbles is doing.  I totally get that some people can't make total lifestyle changes.  I can only speak for my experience, but I can safely say that "trying out vegetarianism" was one of the best decisions I've ever made, but there are so many options out there to help you get introduced to new foods that are super good for you.

3.  Invest in a juicer.  I know they are a bit spendy, but we have definitely gotten our money's worth out of ours in the last 3 months.  This is such a good way to take in fruits & vegetables especially if you like a smoothie for breakfast.  I am currently drinking my favorite juice which is 4 carrots, 1 apple, 1 orange and 1 inch of ginger.  Let me know if you're looking for more juice recipes, we have a couple that are super tasty.

4.  Meal plan.  I always saw other people talk about planning their meals and I was jealous that they had the time and organization to do that.  Finally about 3 weeks ago, I sat down to make a plan.  I was such an idiot for not doing it sooner.  Not only did it take only a few minutes, I spent WAY less money at the grocery store, tried 3 new recipes and saved tons of time by prepping things on Sunday. Say goodbye to takeout 3 nights a week because everything was easy after work.  The queen of meal planning is Steph @ Life According to Steph and she has tons of awesome recipes.

We definitely have ice cream in our freezer along with a few Morningstar breakfast sandwiches for the mornings that we oversleep.  We have a candy stash and everything in it is filled with high fructose corn syrup.  There are a lot of mornings that I use the coffee creamer that pretty much is made of plastic.  We are on a first name basis with our pizza delivery guy still (and will always be.)  We will try just about any meat free food up and down the east coast and there's no stopping me with donuts.

BUT, I am proud of the changes we've made and I know that we are healthier and feel better because of them.  We have cut a ton of crap out of our diets.  We love so many foods that we didn't even know existed - most of them are new fruits & vegetables.  

What are your thoughts?  What changes have you made to your diet?  

March 24, 2014

Your First Day Here

I started my day off with an early run on the treadmill which just felt like punishment for taking a few days off.  Then I started my Keurig without the mug underneath - coffee everywhere.  The news reads "spring is going MIA."  I broke my server connection with work so I'm taking some time to share this with you.  Monday might be winning this morning, but I will make a comeback.

Kid President always make me feel more awesome when I watch his videos.  Whoever came up with this concept is brilliant.  It got me thinking.  What would you tell someone on their first day?  Maybe you could write a letter to the next baby you know that will be born.

Here are some things I would share with a baby on their first day here:

Be a part of your community.  Get to know your neighbors.  Love your surroundings.

Pick a sports team and stick with them.  They will probably let you down over and over again, but every game is a new beginning.  Someday when they win big, you'll experience a happiness that you won't find anywhere else.

Eat your vegetables every day.  Also, enjoy desserts.

There is no such thing as too many coffee mugs or good pajamas.

Smile at people even if you don't feel like smiling.

Never turn down a vacation, especially a road trip.  Those are the best kinds of vacations because you'll see places you would have never visited.

Be a little colorful.

Dream big and don't be afraid to share your dreams. Someone you know might help them come true.

Read books.

Say thank you for everything you are grateful for - big or small.

Go to college when you're ready.  It's a lot of money to spend just to skip class and eat easy mac.

Write letters to people as much as you can.  Mail is the best.

Try new things - especially food, outdoor activities and creative outlets.

Get a pet at some point in life.

Love yourself and celebrate the awesome things you do even if it's just with a dance party.  Self love will make you a better person.

What would you share?  

March 20, 2014

Finally, Spring is Here

It's that time of year where everyone talks about cleaning up their house because it is officially Spring.  Seems like perfect timing because I'm focused on the word "clean" for my 2014 New Year's Resolution part 1.

Spring Cleaning

Spring Cleaning by steph-gregerson featuring three wick candles

Those are my essentials.  Spring is the season for all things green.  I always try and get a new houseplant (and then struggle to keep it alive.)  I make myself a great playlist, pour a glass of wine, light a candle and clean every damn corner of this apartment.

As part of my resolution to be more clean, I changed a few things about my cleaning routine and have done a little more reading.  I have created new habits and I'm improving daily.  Laundry has been put away as soon as it's done.  Our place still looks new.  I have things actually written into my planner that involve cleaning.  It feels amazing.

Go declutter some stuff this weekend.  Call the Lupus Foundation or the Vets and schedule a pick up. Soak your faucets in vinegar (all you need is a plastic bag and a rubber band.)  Then enter this giveaway and get yourself some ad space or a nice brand new design from Two Oaks Design (go check out her stuff) and a gift card to everyone's favorite store.

Happy Spring and good luck!!!

March 19, 2014

I Need a Donut

First of all, I have to say thank you for the comments on yesterday's post.  I spent last night talking on the phone for hours with some of my favorite people from home and even though I stayed up too late, it made me feel so much better.

It felt good to get that off my chest and out on paper yesterday.  Today, I'm going to do a little bit more today and link up with Kathy since I've been wanting to do that for a while.  Here are some more confessions:

I am overdoing it a little with the online shopping.  Our doorman totally thinks my apartment looks like something out of hoarders, but I also get a lot of work stuff shipped here because it's safe and secure.  Between my Stitch Fix, my wine subscriptions, IWYP shirts, my husband's shaving subscription and becoming an Amazon Prime member, I never really have to go anywhere.  I've debated having my groceries delivered.  I need the weather to warm up so I'm less lazy.

I would never have stuck with this 10k training if it wasn't for my daily text messages from Samantha.  I'm telling you that having a partner works and I will be anyone's accountability partner any day.

I finally put lipstick on for the first time yesterday and it terrified me.  I don't think I have any idea what I'm doing.  Justin was trying not to laugh at me... but it was bad.  I'm glad I didn't take a picture because then I would feel obligated to post it here.

I think I'm going to get my hair cut at Great Clips.  I miss my stylist/friend back home and I don't really want to try and find a salon here.  They do a good job, right?

I was supposed to spend last night cleaning because we have guests this weekend, but instead, I drank wine, talked to my girlfriends from home, cuddled my dogs and watched Bravo.

I have a friend that is starting a blog and it made me way too happy to send her information.  Like I actually knew something that I could share with someone else.  It was amazing.  I need to learn more stuff that I can share.

I ate peanut butter out of the jar last night.

I'm terrified of not finishing my 30 before 30 list, but I'm also not really doing anything about it.  I need to get back on track.

I'm getting angry that our Dunkin Donuts hasn't opened yet and I wish there was a way that I could find out the actual opening date.  I stare at it out my window every day.  The workers probably think I'm super creepy.  Don't care.  Just want a cake donut.

On that note, I'm going to go and pick up my latest Stitch Fix and bug the doorman to see if he has any inside info on the DD.

Leave me a comment below with a hump day confession and then come back tomorrow for a giveaway.

March 18, 2014

Home is where your heart is

I've been having a few days lately where I'm feeling sad, but I have a hard time calling it "homesick."  I think it's because of how I have come to define the word home.

Minnesota is where our friends & family are.  Sure, there are a few sprinkled around the country in other places, but most of them are in our home state.  I knew moving across the country would be hard.  Not because we miss the sub zero temperatures and huge mountains of snow, but because we miss the people.  

This is an amazing opportunity for us to get to live somewhere new for a while and explore, but we are missing out on a lot of things too.  We are missing birthdays, weddings, celebrations and random Saturday night gatherings.  Those don't stop when you leave.  They happen without you.  People have a good time when you aren't there.  Sometimes, that sucks.  There have been many moments in the last 5 months that I have shed a tear over a picture on Facebook or Instagram because those are my people having fun without me.

It might sound crazy or selfish to those of you that haven't experienced a move away from friends & family, but to me, it's very real.  

I went into this experience with little expectations about anything.  I didn't want to be anxious or too excited.  I wanted to just take each day at a time.  We have had mostly amazing days, but there have been a few that make me really miss Minnesota and family and our friends and I want to curl up in a ball and cry about it (and maybe I have.)

I'm so lucky that I'm going through all of this with my husband and from day one, we both agreed to talk it out when we're having those days so we can help each other through it.  

You always see the signs that say home is where your heart is and I truly believe that.  Part of my heart is back in Minnesota, but a big part of it is here.  

We love where we are living and the things we get to experience and luckily there are so many distractions.  We live across the river from the greatest city in the world.  We could explore a new place every day and never eat at the same restaurant twice.  We are meeting brand new people and starting to form relationships with other twenty/thirty somethings that left their hometowns to come and explore just like we did.  It's a crazy experience.

Please tell me that I'm not the only one that has those feelings and those days.  What do you do to get through it?  Does it get easier?

March 17, 2014

Jersey Shore - Classy or Trashy?

65 and sunny on Saturday, obviously the only thing for new residents of Jersey to do is hit the shore.  We headed south with a mission to check out the northern half of the famous beaches of the shore.  Talk about spring fever at it's finest - only a bunch of MN kids would find enjoyment hanging out on the beach when it is windy and MARCH.  Our only rule was to stay within 1 1/2 hours from home.

We started out our day at Sandy Hook Lighthouse where we climbed 9 stories and learned a ridiculous amount about lighthouses.  We love free tours.

We left there and headed south along the shore until we reached Seabright, NJ.  We had a fantastic meal of Orange Crushes and Fish Tacos at Woody's.  We will be back there for sure.  The town itself was super cute and would be a great place to spend a beach day because it's only about an hour from our house.

Once we left our new favorite shore town, we realized that Seaside Heights was only about 20 miles down the shore, so off we went.  Yep, we visited the boardwalk that saw numerous arrests of the Snook monster.  We turned our classy little afternoon of historical tours and little classic beach towns into our own personal spring break.

It was more of a joke when we reached town, but the boardwalk is actually quite fun - especially when there's no one there but the skateboarders and surfers.  We enjoyed a $2 beer and the largest slice of pizza I've ever seen.  Then, we took some ridiculous pictures and headed back to the lovely Garden State Parkway.

I wish I was intoxicated when I took the classy picture with the horse, but I'm sure my time will come.  I'm incredibly happy that this is all within driving distance.  If you asked me 12 months ago, I would have told you that the Jersey Shore was not on my list of places to travel, but when you can drive - why not?

So my final verdict on classy or trashy?  It's got a little of everything.

I love the East Coast, I love living across the river from NYC, I love being a Jersey girl (even if I don't quite fit the part yet) and this weekend proved all of that for me all over again.

Happy St. Patrick's Day to everyone.  Cheers.

March 14, 2014

Thank You Notes

This picture describes what the residents of this apartment have looked like this week.  Heavily drugged on cold medicine and lots of laying around.  Thankfully we are all feeling better finally and so ready for this weekend.

While sitting here with no ideas in my brain, I saw a commercial for my best friend, Jimmy Fallon, and decided that I should follow his lead and write some Thank You notes today.

Thank you Wine Awesomeness for delivering wine to my door this week.  I think I've found my new favorite subscription website.  Sorry that I didn't share my living social deal with all of you sooner.  I will keep watching for it and spread the word if it comes back.

Thank you Mom for making last weekend so much fun.  You officially kicked off visitor's hours here which goes the whole month of March.

Thank you Walter White for patiently waiting for Justin & I to start watching.  We are 1/2 way through Season 3 and loving this show as much as everyone told us we would.

Thank you #projectselflove for being a thing this week.  There has been so much positivity floating through the internet this week and I loved reading all about it.  It is so important to love yourself and show that love daily.

Thank you Lost for giving me theories on this plane that is missing that involve all those people being alive somewhere.  This story is just crazy and I hope they figure out something soon.

Thank you friends that are traveling to warm places right now for giving me something to do every night as I research our next adventure.  I will get myself to Costa Rica in the next 12 months.

Thank you Samantha for keeping me on track this month with the 10k training.  I probably would have moved to something else if it wasn't for you.

Thank you Amazon Prime for delivering birthday gifts to 2 of our best friends this weekend - ON TIME.  If I would have been in charge of shipping them, you might have seen them by May.

Thank you Spotify for reminding me that I love this song.

Also, today is the last day to take advantage of 50% both sponsor spots on the blog (which means cheaper than dirt) using the promo code SPARKLE

Happy Friday.  Go Back That Azz Up.

March 13, 2014

Miller Park - Home of the Brewers

Remember when it felt like spring for a few days? Well, good.  Keep that memory alive because the wind is blowing 40-50 MPH today and it feels like Antarctica.  Since I want to be thinking about warmth, I figured I'd finally get around to posting some pictures from our trip to Miller Park in Milwaukee last fall.

A little background, we are on a mission to visit all the baseball stadiums in the country and it has been a really fun adventure so far.  We love baseball.  It was our first date and part of our engagement weekend and we have been getting ourselves to as many games as possible each summer.  This year, we live in a new place with 2 new parks that we've never been to and many more within road tripping distance.

Back to Miller Park.  This was a stadium that both Justin & I had visited before, but never together, so when we had a work trip to Milwaukee and we heard the Cubs were in town, we jumped on the chance.  This is a really cool ball park with a roof that swings open on beautiful warm evenings.  We were lucky enough to be in town on one of those evenings.

The fans were amazing.  The Chicago Cubs and the Milwaukee Brewers have a pretty decent rivalry, plus they are only about an hour about so there were lots of fans from both sides.  We sat next to some pretty rowdy Cubs fans which was very amusing.  The tailgating at the ballpark is fantastic.  The parking lots were full of grills, coolers, lawn chairs and bag toss (I refuse to call it corn hole.)

The food selection wasn't the greatest for vegetarians, but the beer selection was fantastic.  I would expect nothing less from a team named the Brewers.

The coolest part for us was seeing our first live Grand Slam.  The place went crazy and even though we aren't Brewers fans, it was still amazing to see live.

It was the perfect way to spend an evening out on the road.  It was fun to check another park off the list. Our official count is 7/30 and this will be a big summer for us.  What is your favorite ball park?

March 12, 2014

I Just Don't Get It - Reality TV Edition

A few months ago, I did a post about things I just don't understand.  My list is back again because there are so many moments where I shake my head and just don't get it, but I think that happens mostly while watching reality television (which clearly I do too much.)
Anything and everything about Juan Pablo and why he was cast as the Bachelor.  It's okay.  NO, it's not okay.  He was a weiner.

Why are the words Fairy Tale thrown around so much during these dating shows?  Do these people realize that there are a dozen other people kissing and rubbing up on their fairy tale love?  Didn't they see the same Disney movies I did?

There are too many children featured on reality shows and I can't imagine that they are going to be excited about it when they are older... like Dance Mom's?  Unless the child is Milania, you should probably let them have a normal childhood.

The damn songs from real housewives are so catchy.  Why does my brain work that way?  I really don't want to be singing Money can't buy you Class as I'm walking through the lobby of my apartment.  Do they think they are good singers or do they pretend so they can make some quick iTunes cash?

Why hasn't there been a Survivor: D List Celebrity?  Put those 80's TV stars, retired athletes, Snooki and Donald Trump on an island instead of a fancy hotel and let the fun begin.

Why isn't there an Emmy for Editing these reality shows?  The commercials really suck me in and then it never turns out to be quite as dramatic as I thought.

I have spent time in my life watching the Kardashians.  Why is this a thing?  Damn you, Ryan Seacrest.

Why haven't they added a Real Housewives of Dallas, Las Vegas, Chicago or anywhere else?  I love them all.  Bring it on.

Maybe they could do a Survivor or Amazing Race with just the Housewives?  I think I would have Carole, Heather and Jeff Lewis (just pretend he's a housewife.)

The live reunion shows.  Why can't I be in the live audience?  I would totally watch the crazy happen for 8 hours, especially if I could drink some wine.

Andy Cohen is the best.  I get that, don't worry.  I know I'm not the only one that watches far too much Bravo.

What confuses you about reality TV?  Which housewife do you think would win Amazing Race or Survivor?

March 11, 2014

The Ladies Take NYC

I'm sick, I'm exhausted, I'm so busy with work.  But I am sooooo happy.  My mom and 3 of her best friends visited us this weekend and it was an absolute blast.  It felt like I was on vacation with them.

Here were the brief highlights from the weekend:

  • Their first afternoon that involved a tour of the apartment and an afternoon drink at Pier 115.
  • Our first trip to McSorley's Old Ale House.  The beer was great and the service was fantastic.
  • Saturday spent exploring Brooklyn.  I introduced the ladies to Crif Dogs and they tried a few crazy combos.  My mom had a hotdog wrapped in bacon with pickles, peanut butter and crushed potato chips.  We also discovered The Commodore (and their amazing fish tacos) and Kristophe's.  We finished our Brooklyn adventure at Radegast Beer Hall.
  • Sunday, we enjoyed a family style dinner at La Mela with dessert afterwards at Ferrera. 

yep, picture of a picture
  • Sunday night walking tour of the Flatiron District (self guided obviously).
We had great weather and they were up for just about anything.  I found a few new places that I will be happy to return to.  It was so great to see my mom and hang out with her and the ladies for a few days.  

Now, I'm going to spend the rest of the week trying to get caught up at work, make myself feel better and relax a little bit.  Time for more medicine and my pillow.  I miss my mom already.

March 6, 2014

I'm a Jersey Girl

I am a Jersey Girl.  Not really one that fits the stereotype blasted all over television, but that might be because I just moved here 4 months ago.  I'm super pale, my hair is a weird mix of red + blond and I have an almost Canadian accent.  But, I'm a Jersey girl now.

When we first got the news that we would be heading east, we started an apartment search that included Queens, parts of Jersey and some areas of Westchester County.  Once we realized that our office would be in North Jersey, we knew that the only option for us would be in New Jersey.  I had no experience with the Garden State other than watching Jersey Shore, Real Housewives of Jersey and that one episode of How I Met Your Mother.  (read this for a better understanding)

We came in October to find an apartment and check out the area and as soon as we got to our little riverside town of Edgewater.  We found an apartment that was brand new and had a washer/dryer that wasn't WAY over our budget.  Dog park, Hudson riverfront and a DD opening downstairs.  Sign me up.  

I love having a little space and a parking spot, but having a wonderful view of NYC and a quick bus or ferry ride into the city.  I love not having to cross the GW bridge unless we have business on the island.  I love that so many of our neighbors are transplants as well and they are fun people.  I love commuting against traffic.  I love being able to walk to everything I need, but also being able to jump in the car and head to the mall.  I love not having tax on clothes.  I love my new home.

I'm a person that insists on falling in love with "home."  Every time the weather has been a tiny bit nice, we've been exploring our new home and we have found some gems.  Here are some pictures from our recent favorite, Liberty State Park in Jersey City.

It always helps when the sun is shining and the weather is a little warmer.  Seriously, I need spring NOW.